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a pink triangle in the traditional orientation

In Nazi Germany, pink triangles (German: Rosa Winkel)[1] were used as one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used to identify male prisoners who were sent there because they were homosexual.[2][3] Intended as a badge of shame, the pink triangle has since been reclaimed as an international symbol of gay pride and the gay rights movement, and is second in popularity only to the rainbow flag.[citation needed]



Prisoner identificationEdit

In Nazi concentration camps, each prisoner was assigned a triangular concentration camp badge to wear on their chest, the color of which identified to which group they belonged. Homosexual men were identified by a pink triangle. Other colors identified Jewish people (yellow, with a second inverted triangle superimposed to resemble the Star of David), and other groups of people the Nazis deemed undesirable. Pink and yellow triangles could be combined if a prisoner was identified as both homosexual and Jewish.[4]

While the number of homosexual men in German concentration camps is hard to estimate, Richard Plant gives a rough estimate of the number of men convicted for homosexuality "between 1933 to 1944 at between 50,000 and 63,000."[3]

After the camps were liberated at the end of the Second World War, many of the pink triangle prisoners were re-incarcerated by the Allied-established Federal Republic of Germany.[citation needed] An openly homosexual man named Heinz Dörmer, for instance, served 20 years total, first in a Nazi concentration camp and then in the jails of the new Republic due to the Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, which turned homosexuality from a minor offense into a felony, remaining intact in East Germany until 1968[5] and in West Germany until 1969.[6] West Germany continued to imprison homosexual men until 1994 under a "reformed" version of the Paragraph, which made sexual relations between men up to the age of 21 – as well as male homosexual prostitution – illegal. [7] While law suits seeking monetary compensation have failed, in 2002 the German government issued an official apology to the gay community.[8]

On August 3, 2011 Rudolf Brazda died at the age of 98; he was the last known homosexual concentration camp survivor.[citation needed]

"Gay Rights" symbolEdit

By the end of the 1970s, the pink triangle had begun to be adopted as a symbol for gay rights protest.[9][10] Some academics have linked the reclamation of the symbol with the publication, in the early 1970s, of gay concentration camp survivor Heinz Heger's memoir The Men with the Pink Triangle.[11] In the 1975 movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the transvestite main character Dr. Frank N. Furter wears the pink triangle on one of his (many) outfits.

An ACT UP member displaying the organization's trademark protest sign

By the 1980s, it was widely used – sometimes discretely, as an "insider" code – as a symbol for gay and lesbian organizations, businesses, and individuals. The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) adopted an upward-pointing pink triangle along with the slogan "SILENCE = DEATH" as its logo shortly after its formation by six gay activists in New York City in 1987.[12][13] Some use the triangle in this orientation as a specific "reversal" of its usage by the Nazis.[14][15][16]

Until 1985 there was an unofficial ban on placing pink triangle wreaths at the United Kingdom war memorial the Cenotaph, and such wreaths were removed as soon as they were found by officials.[17]

In 2001 Robert Randolph Davis, rented a storefront boutique in West Hollywood, California, to display a collection of concentration camp armbands that had come into his possession. They had reportedly been given by a homosexual holocaust survivor to a doctor who had assisted with the liberation of the concentration camps. After the doctor's death 60 years later, Davis purchased the sealed chest containing them in an estate sale. The display was reported in The Los Angeles Times.[citation needed]

The symbol of the pink triangle has been included in numerous public monuments and memorials. In 1995, after a decade of campaigning for it, a pink triangle plaque was installed at the Dachau Memorial Museum to commemorate the suffering of gay men and lesbians.[18] In 2015 a pink triangle was incorporated into Chicago's Legacy Walk.[19] It is the basis of the design of the Homomonument in Amsterdam, the Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial in Sydney, the Pink Triangle Park in the Castro neighbourhood of San Francisco and the 1-acre (4,000 m2) Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks that is displayed every year during San Francisco Pride weekend in San Francisco.[20] It is also the basis for LGBT memorials in Barcelona, Sitges and Montevideo, and the burial component of the LGBT Pink Dolphin Monument in Galveston.

The Pink Panthers Movement is a militant activist group based in Denver, Colorado. They adopted a pink triangle with clawed panther print logo, adapted from the original Pink Panthers Patrol in New York City.[citation needed]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "English-German Dictionary". Retrieved November 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ Plant, The Pink Triangle.
  3. ^ a b Plant, Richard (1988). The pink triangle: the Nazi war against homosexuals (revised ed.). H. Holt. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-8050-0600-1. 
  4. ^ See Nazi concentration camp table of inmate markings
  5. ^ James Kirchik (February 13, 2013). "Documentary Explores Gay Life in East Germany". Der Spiegel. 
  6. ^ Clayton J. Whisnant (2012). Male Homosexuality in West Germany: Between Persecution and Freedom, 1945-69. pp. 201–203. ISBN 9780230355002. 
  7. ^ Zowie Davy; Julia Downes; Lena Eckert (2002). Bound and Unbound: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Genders and Sexualities. pp. 141–142. ISBN 1443810851. 
  8. ^ Melissa Eddy (May 18, 2002). "Germany Offers Nazi-Era Pardons". Associated Press. 
  9. ^ Gianoulis, Tina (2004). Claude J. Summers, ed. "Pink Triangle". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Archived from the original on 2014-10-25. Retrieved 2014-09-26. In the early 1970s, gay rights organizations in Germany and the United States launched campaigns to reclaim the pink triangle. In 1973 the German gay liberation group Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW) called upon gay men to wear the pink triangle as a memorial. 
  10. ^ "Symbols of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements". Lambda GLBT Community Services. 2004. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  11. ^ Jensen, Erik (2002). "The pink triangle and political consciousness: gays, lesbians, and the memory of Nazi persecution". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 11 (1 and 2). 
  12. ^ Feldman, Douglas A. and Judith Wang Miller (1998). The AIDS Crisis: A Documentary History. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-28715-5. p. 176
  13. ^
  14. ^ "San Francisco Neighborhoods: The Castro" KQED documentary.
  15. ^ "This week in history: Recognizing the history of the pink triangle". People's World. Retrieved 27 April 2018. 
  16. ^ R. Amy Elman PhD (2010) Triangles and Tribulations:, Journal of Homosexuality, 30:3, 1-11, DOI: 10.1300/J082v30n03_01
  17. ^ "Q&A: Peter Tatchell". Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. 
  18. ^ Brocklebank, Christopher (31 May 2011). "New memorial to gay holocaust victims to be built in Munich". Pink News. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "Legacy Walk unveils five new bronze memorial plaques - 2342 - Gay Lesbian Bi Trans News - Windy City Times". 
  20. ^ "The Pink Triangle, displayed annually on Twin Peaks in San Francisco during Pride weekend". 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 

Further readingEdit

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